I've been thinking about what it means to call your music 'experimental' and it seems that in 2003, the experiments have all been performed.
Is music that morphs sound experimental? Morphing timbres has been used in many pieces, Lansky, Risset, et al, and even used in popular Hollywood films (Willow in the tent scene).
Is microtonal music experimental? After Partch and Haba, et al, it would seem that microtonal music is old hat. We can come up with new scales and explore them, but isn't that what composition is about? Would employing new software devices to explore these realms be considered experimental in 2003?
Is the use of noise experimental? Since the work of Varese, the use of noise has become fairly well-trodden territory. It would seem to be if an entire genre of music has developed around a musical technique than it is no longer experimental - Noise music .
Is the use of stochastics or randomizing procedures experimental? Since Cage and Xenakis explored this territory so thoroughly in the last century I find it hard that it could be considered such.
Is the use of computers to write music or to search for patterns or to generate passages or timbres experimental? Again, very well-explored territory.
Is ths use of computer-generated speech or vocal timbres experimental? Again, with Lansky's work and the use of speech synthesis embedded in most PC's (although not utilized well by software) I can't see how artificial vocalisms can be considered experimental.
Good composers, IMO, look for unexplored combinations of timbral, textural and melodic elements. That is the nature of the search for newness that all good artists indulge in. Is it possible that there will be no more experimental music?
And while I indulge in these thoughts, is it possible that without experimentalism there is no more avant-garde? Leonard Meyer predicted that in the near future, a dead end would be reached in experimentalism and that musical styles would freeze, in the same manner that Egyptian art had become frozen.
One can certainly imagine amazing new musics produced from combining the many diverse elements we have at our disposal today. One brilliant innovation in compositional technique and new musical fashions emerge. But these new fashions, IMO, cannot claim to be the new order of music; the new avant-garde if they are merely mixing known elements. They are just today's music, fresh and lively. One of the great reasons to keep up with the electronic scene. If new musical styles are going to develop, experimental or not, it will be here in the world of electronica.
Am I missing something? Is there some new realm that experimentalists are exploring that I've left out? Does being avant-garde not imply experimenting?Posted by jeff at June 4, 2003 01:08 PM